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Do you hate the mirror or the reflection?

Exploring how gender dysphoria impacts body image.

The relationship between Gender and body image

Gender and body image have the same relationship as Tom and Jerry, they want to be friends but the constant fighting causes emotions such as low self-esteem, anger, and upset. I came out as questioning trans male five years ago, and now at the age of 19 I have had my referral to the Gender Clinic, to hopefully take the next step which is top surgery.

As trans and non-binary people our relationships with our bodies can be complicated. We face the same social pressures and messages around what the perfect body is. These social pressures are a real strain when we are fighting two bodies, the one we do not want to live in and trying to create the ideal body that we are happy in. Not all trans and non-binary people struggle with their body image due to their gender identity but many of us face these struggles.

The enemy

My arch-enemy is the mirror. Body Image comes with a separate set of challenges when identifying as a different gender because in your headspace you could be having a great body image day, happy with your hair, happy that your face shape looks masculine or feminine, happy that your binder makes you look flat-chested or that bra makes your breasts look big. But then when you look in the mirror that happiness disappears as the reality of what you see and feel does not match, underneath that binder you just took off is a large pair of breasts, or those eyebrows and jawline are gone as you wiped the make-up away. Seeing a boy in your head and a girl in the mirror or vice versa can be a psychological battle.

Our body image is both mental and emotional. The mental image in someone’s head is just as important as the body we feel. Feeling happy and accepting our bodies could lead to a healthier body image. Sometimes it is not about the picture, it becomes a puzzle. You have to look at the individual qualities and pick out key strengths that allow you to feel good. Body image links to other factors such as confidence and the morals and values we try to deliver. Without elevated levels of self-confidence and esteem, we cannot always make the best decisions and take full control of the three things that I believe make up our wellbeing.

I believe to look after ourselves we need a balance of social, physical, and emotional wellbeing. Body Image has impacted these for me in the past for example physically I tried to avoid sports such as swimming because my body and the outfits made me feel and portray as female to everyone, now that I feel more comfortable in myself I wear swim shorts and rash vests to go swimming.

For some of us trans and non-binary individuals, feeling good enough means changing our clothes or hairstyle, hormonal treatments, or surgery. We might use binders or shapewear to help us feel comfortable in the outline of our bodies. When feeling able to look in a mirror and see a genuine reflection, this makes positive changes on our thoughts and feelings.

Tips to help with body image

There are things as a trans or non-binary person that can be done to benefit body image. Some of my tips would be:

  1. Dress the way that makes you feel comfortable. Changing your look in a small way could help the way you feel about yourself

  2. The media can be a negative place, but challenge the stereotypes. You may not change someone’s view, but education is key to making a better planet.

  3. Turn to support from friends, family, or services, they are there to help you and support you on your journey. Some useful support links are Young Minds (A charity who work with young people and have a page about body image) and Mermaids ( A charity that work with young people who are gender diverse)

  4. Treat your body how you want to be treated. Sleep, exercise, and eat well. As Snickers would say “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

  5. Be kind to yourself, it is important to kill the world with kindness

I want to round this all up with a key quote that there is no such word as can’t. Cut your hair, wear that binder, talk to that friend, eat that chocolate bar, go for that walk, and educate that person about positive body image. Anyways to the person reading this, look at yourself and smile because you look great today!

For more information around embracing yourself through body positivity and some useful links and resources, check out this blog!


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